Today we’re sharing a short story, “The Dragon” by Tey Phinesse. This story is an intriguing exploration of the dark side of heroism. Enjoy!
There once was a knight in the Land of Wonder. Now, in this Land, there was a city, or a small village if we’re being particular. A dragon had terrorized this particular village for centuries. Now, our Knight wanted to defeat the Dragon. Whether this ambition was for personal gain or for the good of the village, we will never know.
The day the Knight embarked on his journey to the Dragon’s Den was a Saturday. A very dark, gloomy Saturday. Perhaps the people felt the gloom, for they were all quiet that day, and Saturdays were market days.
Usually you could hear the old vendors gossiping loudly, the geese, chickens and other animals braying and neighing and honking and clucking. Usually you could hear the bartering of customers, begging for a lower price. But today was not a usual Saturday. It was quiet. Much too quiet.
The Knight’s hike up the Mountain to the Dragon’s Den was going to be very dangerous. The Knight was only a little worried. Instead, it was his friends that feared for him the most, because nothing was more perilous than walking up that peak. But the Knight had been trained to fight hardships. He was ready.
On his walk to the Mountain, he was stopped a few times by friends and family, wishing him good luck and farewell. They had a headstone ready for him in the graveyard. The Knight did not care. It would not be used any time soon.
The first few days up the Mountain were fairly uneventful. But what else are the beginnings of adventures than uneventful, and the middle of adventures then full of danger? So it should come to you as no surprise, that on the fifth day, precisely the middle of the Knight’s ten-day journey to annihilate the Dragon, danger struck.
Genius monkeys are about 10 feet tall, have razor-sharp teeth, red eyes, blue tongues, and extraordinarily sharp claws…and make nearly unbeatable plans to utterly destroy any poor travelers who had chanced to pass their way. This is exactly what they had done when our brave Knight passed beneath their caves.
The Knight glanced up at the cliffs as a clump of snow dropped to the ground in front of him. And then it began. First, the rocks came down the mountainside. The Knight dodged those pretty well, but then the monkeys released the flaming arrows.
Immediately, the Knight realized that he was in the hands, or should I say claws, of the genius monkeys. Thankfully the snow at these heights put out most of the arrows, but unfortunately one scorched the Knight’s shield. But then… the nets descended, knocking him unconscious allowing the monkeys to drag him further up the Mountain. It was the beginning of the fifth day.
Our Knight woke up staring at the ceiling of a large, grey cave. He was quite woozy. I mean, being knocked out and dragged by genius monkeys wasn’t necessarily enjoyable. But the Knight detected a thinness in the air which hadn’t been there before.
I must be nearly to the Mountain’s peak, He thought, I must be. I really must. And it’s because that monkey is eating a julenberry. And julenberries only grow near the peak
This was noon on the fifth day. The Knight wriggled in the net. Immediately the genius monkey sat up. Several hoots and hollers later, a group of genius monkeys were standing around the Knight, eyeing him hungrily. A plethora of spices were then poured over him. The Knight thought quickly – what could I do to distract them? Ah! I know!
“Wait,” he cried, “How do you feel about the Dragon at the top of the Mountain?”
The one who seemed to be the head genius monkey looked at the Knight curiously. He made a long, loud holler, and all action stopped among the 10ft monkeys.
“My job is to defeat the Dragon at the peak. If you help me kill him, you will be rid of a nuisance, as will my village. Seeing as I am probably the only Knight bound to come up here and defeat the Dragon, I would suggest that you not fry me. Also, I doubt I taste very good.”
The Monkeys then began talking and getting louder. They had decided to help the Knight get to the very peak, and gave him an enormous supply of the purple crystal-sweet julenberries. It was the end of the fifth day.
From where the Knight stood, he could see the glint of gold in the Dragon’s Den. As everyone knows, Dragons are addicted to gold. Heavily addicted. So the Knight quietly climbed into the Dragon’s abode and he felt the gold shift underneath his feet the entire way to the Dragon’s large nose. The Dragon lazily opened an eye.
“Hello, Knight. I know what you come for, but my taste buds have long gone out, so I have no interest in fighting. No longer does gold still glitter, and I fear that I am eternally lost. I wander, I wander, with unlimited power, but is power truly worth this pain? I have had all I wanted, young Knight, and yet I have missed something altogether. So end me, young Knight, finish my pain, but beware the lure of power. If you crawl on my tail, there is a place you may stab, and I will quickly die.” And the Dragon closed his eye.
This is easier than I expected! The Knight thought, and so he crawled on the tail of the Dragon where a teeny-tiny scale was missing. And the Knight brought down his sword in a violent thrust. The Dragon let out one last deafening roar and died.
The genius monkeys heard the Dragon’s last cry, as did the villagers far down on the ground, and they rejoiced. It was the end of the sixth day.
One of the genius monkeys rushed to the Dragon’s Den. The Knight took a little of the Dragon’s treasure, but only the things that were well crafted, so as to impress the villagers more. With the help of a few genius monkeys, the Knight soon was back in the village. When he arrived, it was the end of the tenth day. And so the Knight’s journey ended… or did it?
You see, he was showered with gifts the moment he returned. Quickly the Knight outranked everybody in the city, so it was not a surprise when he became the leader of the village. But at night, in his room, the words of the old Dragon echoed in his head:
“No longer does gold still glitter, and I am eternally lost.”
And so the Knight became obsessed with wealth. He had lost the spirit of freedom and joy that usually surrounded these hero figures. The Knight himself became like the Dragon, and all the village feared him and his incredibly high taxes, because “… For any of your wishes, we need more money.”
The villagers lived in poverty, the Knight hoarding all the money given to him. The next time he went up the mountain for more gold, the genius monkeys did not let him pass, for they saw his insanity.
And so, a little boy decided that he would some day defeat this Dragon Knight. Let us simply hope that his story has a brighter ending than that of the Knight’s.
Tey Phinesse loves imagining stories while listening to music in her room. Her favorite sound is the airport at approximately 3 am, and her favorite smell is the scent that fills the air right before rain on a hot day. This story was inspired by the play To Kill A Dragon and its movie adaptation that bears the same name. Instead of having anything to do with a totalitarianistic government, it is instead a warning for heroes, reminding them to bring revival and difference, instead of becoming like their enemies.